Intersight 23: Letter from the Dean

Robert G. Shibley, Professor and Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Robert G. Shibley

Published May 14, 2021

As the journal of student work for the year 2020, Intersight 23 chronicles the School of Architecture and Planning’s inspired response to a historic moment. It is an honest and hopeful exploration of how a community of students and their faculty struggled, adapted and grew together during a time of unrelenting challenge. The body of student work cataloged here is the ultimate triumph, revealing that out of the disruption we have emerged with new insight, agency and aspirations for a better world.

Continuing Traditions

The following pages put on full display the spirit of enterprise and collective action that carried us through the past year. Through meticulous reportage, thoughtful reflection and artful presentation, Brunkow Fellow and Intersight 23 editor Charles Wingfelder (MArch ’21) has captured the intellectual currents of the School at a pivotal moment in time, documenting student work generated over the course of 2020. Curated and produced with the guidance of a stellar faculty committee, the book joins a more than 30-year tradition of annual Intersight publications supported by the generous endowment of Kathryn Brunkow Sample and former UB President Steven Sample.

An abridged verson of this reflection was featured in our journal of student work, Intersight 23. View the digital publication here.

Healing through Reflection

In their interviews and conversations with students and faculty, Wingfelder and assistant editor Katelyn Broat dig deep into the hearts and minds of our community. These forums for open student-to-student dialogue offer us a space to record, make meaning, and, in a sense, heal. The sense of loss from learning at a distance, and without the full intensity of hands on, in person learning, is real. But so are the victories: organizing nearly 100 first-year architecture students into small “pods” to allow students to learn in person during their foundational year; leveraging the flexibility of Zoom to engage new partners and community members in an urban planning studio on public housing in Buffalo; diving into the immediacy and dynamism of Miro-based desk crits; maintaining the annual regatta for our junior “Tectonics of Buoyancy” studio; and – last spring, during the peak of the pandemic – shifting a design-build graduate studio on terra cotta to an intensive endeavor in sculpting from home. Together we found ways to pivot, problem-solve, and sustain the hands-on, collaborative learning that defines our School.

Sticking to our Principles

Amidst the shifting currents of the past year, we were anchored by our core values and guiding principles. Intersight 23 captures a School with renewed focus, clarity of purpose and resolve to act upon the grand global challenges of the day. Responding to the calls to action around us, students have generated powerful and paradigm-shifting work – new perspectives, new ideas, and new ways of working. Rising to the surface are our inclinations to make and work with material and form; to engage the immediacy of our environment; to design and plan for and with the communities we serve; and to push for the design and planning of resilient, vibrant and just places.

And so while we have all felt the distance of the past year – academically, socially, emotionally – Intersight reminds us that all along we have been in this together. The book is in itself a convening of our community – a heartening look at who we are and the values that bridge the divide. In documenting a year like no other, Intersight 23 stands out among the volumes. We invite you to join us in celebrating our students and the hope they offer for a better world for all.

Bob Shibley.